Standard blurb-o'-da-month: The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
At first, I wasn't too excited. I'm not a huge cheesecake person. I like it alright, but its rarely something I'll choose when I'm at a restaurant. Cheesecake has always been the one dessert dish Joe has liked to make so I've never felt compelled to make it.
But I was quickly excited by the creativity allowed in this challenge. My biggest complaint about the Daring Bakers is that we are all supposed to make the exact same recipe. No modifications. No tweaking. No creativity. And really, that's a huge part of the fun in baking, in my opinion. I can see why they do it but sometimes its a bit of a drag, especially when I sense the recipe needs a little something extra.
So wheels began to turn as I began to consider what kind of cheesecake I would like to make. My initial thought was to make an amaretto cheesecake, since amaretto and I have a long standing love affair. I thought about making an amaretti crust, though I wasn't sure how that would work out. However, I few other Daring Bakers immediately posted their own amaretto/almond cheesecakes and I wanted to be a unique snowflake, damnit. Also, we were out of amaretto.
I tossed around a few more ideas but wasn't inspired until I went to the market a few weeks back and spied blood oranges. I wasn't sure how I wanted to incorporate blood orange into the cheesecake but I was determined. And running out of time. So I bought a bunch and went home.
I eventually decided on a lightly flavored orange cheesecake topped with a blood orange curd for color and deliciousness. I didn't want to use graham crackers for the crust so I eventually settled on Nilla waffers instead. Mostly because I really like Nilla waffers.
The result was pretty fabulous. This is probably one of the creamiest cheesecakes I've ever had. I had a really hard time taking pictures of this for some reason but the white cheesecake against the blood orange curd was very pretty.
2 cups / 180 g Nilla cookie crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
Juice and zest of one orange
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.
2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.
3. Combine cream cheese, salt and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla and orange juice/zest and blend until smooth and creamy.
4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.
5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, you may cover with blood orange curd.
Blood orange curd
3 egg yolks
About 1 Tbsp blood orange zest
Juice of 6 blood oranges (some of mine were kind of dry- this yielded close to 1 cup)
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp butter
Over a double boiler, whisk the egg yolks, zest, juice (orange and lemon), salt and sugar. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens to coat the back of a spoon. Add the butter and whisk until combined.
I made my curd the night before and then warmed it back up to make it easier to spread on top the cheesecake. Then I let the whole thing chill again so it slice nicely.
All in all, I think this was my favorite challenge yet, I loved seeing how creative other people got. And of course it tasted good to boot.
I would say more but my Xanax is kicking in and I should go to sleep before I say things I regret. Ta!